How Does a Garbage Truck Work?

by Dale Devries
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Igor Lubnevskiy

Rear-Loading Trucks

In 1938 the Load Packer was introduced by Garwin Industries, which revolutionized the sanitation industry. It was the first true compacting garbage truck. The trucks at that point could carry twice as much as before because they could compact the trash while driving through the city. By the 1950s there were many of these garbage trucks in use, and other manufacturers also started making them. By the late 1950s and early 1960s they started to manufacture industrial-strength compacting trucks. These trucks could handle larger objects and compacted better, allowing them a 25 percent larger load.

How the Compactor Works

The trucks are loaded by sanitation engineers along neighborhood streets. The trash is loaded into a hopper in the back of the truck of rear loaders. Hydraulic cylinders operate the compacting mechanism, which takes the trash out of the hopper and places it into the body of the truck. As more trash is placed into the body, the more it gets compacted. Because the compacting unit is on the outside of the body of the truck, it keeps the trash from falling out of the truck when it is full or moving. When the truck is full the driver takes the trash to the dump. The rear of the truck tilts up like a dump truck and the hydraulic cylinders move the compacting panels out of the way. The trash is then dumped out of the truck and the back hosed out.

Other Types of Garbage Trucks

There have been many variations of the garbage truck since its invention. The front-loading truck has a hopper in the front of the truck at about waist level to the workers. They load into the hopper and it takes the garbage up over the top of the truck and dumps it into the body. It is then compacted and this truck dumps the same as the rear loader. Recycling trucks also come in various versions. Some are side loaders in which the hoppers are on the sides and lift up into the truck. Some have separate hoppers for each type of recyclable material. There is even one type that has a robotic arm that grabs the can from the side of the street, goes up a conveyor, dumps the material and places the can back on the street. This is a similar operation to the commercial garbage bins you see outside of restaurants and other businesses. These trucks normally collect the bin from in front of the truck, lift it over the truck and dump into the body of the truck. These types of trucks take away the need for more workers.

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